Women Take Biggest Hit in Divorce, Say Experts


"These are compounded upon the emotional stress of the divorce itself -- the failed marriage, the lost hopes and dreams, the betrayal and infidelity, the stigma of being divorced, the disadvantages created for my son (and all the legal proceedings...even more financial and emotional stress)," she wrote.

Andra Brosh, 44, of Santa Monica, Calif., had a seemingly perfect marriage to her college sweetheart when her husband walked out to live with a longtime mistress.

"I was living a dream," she said. "For nine months I tried to make it work because I didn't want to let the dream go. But I needed to move on with my life, and there was no way I could live my life looking over my shoulder every second."

She and Allison Pescosolido, 43, both grief counselors, have founded a divorce recovery program and website, Divorce Detox, where women can get help.

They wanted to take the "pain and heartbreak and confusion" out of divorce, so women could survive the loss and build a "foundation for a better life."

"We developed a whole paradigm to take people through the steps of divorce," said Brosh, a psychologist.

Women Can Survive Divorce, Say Experts

For women who have been married for a long time, Pescosolido says the first emotion is shock.

"It's very, very traumatic...they are so attached to the commitment," she said. "The forever of two lives is being upset, and all dreams and hopes, everything that you have thought about since childhood is lost."

The stress of divorce can also lead to health problems. "They forget to take care of themselves," said Brosh. Sometimes, women stop eating properly.

"Even people who are very functioning are surprised at how hard it is just to do their daily activities," said Pescosolido.

Before custody arrangements are in place, women can resent their spouses for leaving them with all the child care responsibilities.

"Suddenly, the single mom has a lot to deal with," said Brosh. "It's frustrating for women when the partner has a new wife and seems like he is in his heyday."

For women who have been married for years, online dating is an anomaly. "There's an old stigma that's not relevant anymore," said Pescosolido. "There is nothing shameful and that's how dating is done these days."

Some are fearful of dating, but once they step out, "they feel relieved at how liberating it is," said Brosh, who is now in a relationship again.

After 10 weeks, most women begin to make major improvement. They learn to process their feelings, enter into new relationships and even make amends with their former husbands, a process Brosh and Pescosolido call "ex-communicating."

Such was the case with Susan B. of Pennsylvania, who wrote to ABCNews.com.

"When I went through my divorce I was devastated," she said. "My children were 13 and 15. I had to sell my house and move to another town. My kids had to switch schools. But with all that being said, we are much better off. We have grown to appreciate things a whole lot more. Yes, we struggled, but we are stronger for it today."

Her children are now 20 and 22 and "they are better than ever," according to Susan. "They still talk to their father. They are happy, well-rounded children."

Even Kathleen Johnson came out the other end of four painful divorces.

"My advice for women: If you get married again make sure he is willing to work at the marriage also," she said. "Effective communication is vital, and realize that you both communicate differently. Forgive each other daily, and spend more time finding the laughter in even the small things."

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